Hon. Afam Ogene
Speaking with Anayo Okolie, a member of the House of Representatives from Ogbaru Federal Constituency area of Anambra State, Hon. Afam Ogene, said there was no going back on the clamour for power shift in the state. Excerpts
The people of Anambra North are resolute in their desire to succeed incumbent governor, Mr. Peter Obi, while those from Central and South districts are also gearing up. Can the North really get it?
I come from Anambra North and even before the public sessions, the agitation reached a crescendo during the 2010 governorship elections in Anambra State with all the frontrunners promising the people of Anambra North that come 2014, they would support a candidate from Anambra North extraction for governorship. But today, we have people who are trying to reverse history.
We know that Professor Charles Soludo, the PDP candidate, Dr. Chris Ngige, the ACN candidate, his Excellency, Governor Peter Obi, the incumbent governor did make promises to the people of Anambra North but today, as we speak, it is only his Excellency, Governor Peter Obi who is keeping faith with that promise. He is not mincing words that it is the turn of Anambra North for governorship in 2014. And we are not acting on a beggarly note; we are saying that our quest is anchored on justice, equity and fair play.
Is it true that Governor Obi is responsible for APGA crisis?
What has indicated that Governor Peter Obi is the mastermind? No! He is not. Like I told you earlier, Dr. Charles Soludo and Dr. Chris Ngige, are not of APGA but did promise the people of Anambra North when they were campaigning in 2010 that they would support an Anambra North candidate. So, if Mr. Peter Obi, an incumbent governor is saying that he would keep the promise he made, I don’t see how that can precipitate any crisis. What I think is behind the crisis in APGA is management of substance.
If you recall, APGA didn’t have anybody in the National Assembly. They have had one House of Representatives member sometime in 2003, but this time we have an APGA caucus, an APGA Senator and two governors. We also have two state assemblies controlled by APGA. When you rise from a position of nothing to a position of something, then, if you don’t manage the attendant success, you might have crisis. But I don’t see it as crisis; I see it as a process- a regeneration process for a greater APGA.
There are fears that the Niger Bridge may collapse because of pressure, what is government doing about it?
The Niger Bridge is the major gateway into the South-east from the West. People from the South-south and South-east- all use the bridge. So, the volume of traffic on the bridge gets worse every festive period like the Christmas and the New Year and you expect another round during Easter. All these put considerable pressure on the bridge; hence, the fear of the users is justifiable. There are also increasing worries over security and safety on the bridge. If an accident occurs, where you have over thousands of vehicles lined up bumper-to-bumper, the outcome can only be imagined.
The situation is no longer funny. People are afraid that the bridge is a major calamity waiting to happen. There is, however, hope because the President has promised that the ground breaking of the Second Niger Bridge will come up soon. Hence, the people are not only asking for the ground breaking ceremony but also, to know when the bridge will be completed. Even as we hold on to that promise, recent experiences on the Niger Bridge have even made the calls for the urgent construction of the Second Niger Bridge much more louder than the call for the construction of any other infrastructural project in Nigeria today.
It will also be wise that while we are discussing the Second Niger Bridge issue, after people must have travelled back, the Federal Ministry of Works should take another look at the existing bridge and ensure that another rehabilitation work is done; tightening the bolts and knots that were affected so as to prevent a national disaster.
Do you subscribe to autonomy for councils?
I think the House of Representatives members are on the same page with the Nigerian people. We have always said that Nigerians are our employers and we are there in the House of Representatives at their behests- to side with them. If you remember, I know that a member, Hon. Friday Usula, had proposed a bill to amend the part of the constitution that dwells on the local government administration.
As a House, we are not happy with the current situation where we have close to 20 states that are not operating democratic principles at the local government level which is supposed to be the third tier of government. So, the people are now agitating. Like my local government in Ogbaru Federal Constituency, they were clearly vehement that the government at the state level should cease taking funds meant for the local government. So that simply tells you that everybody is desirous to have democracy at that level.
How about State creation?
Well, let me begin by saying that the primary purpose of government anywhere in the world is to ensure the welfare, security and well-being of the citizenry and taking into cognisance, the interest welfare and well-being of the people. We must also identify with their aspirations, fears and hopes. We must address all these issues. If we can remember, over the past 13/14 years, since the advent of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, there have been frequent agitations for change in terms of the constitution, which is the grundnum upon which our lives as a country revolves.
Flowing from that, there have been agitations for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), though some people call it a national conference, but the bottom line is that there is need for us to talk about how to fashion something close to an ideal living condition among the constituent parts and among the different people and tribes that make up the Nigeria nation. So, the Seventh House of Representatives, when it came into being on June 6, 2011, was conscious of this and in fashioning out its legislative agenda, didn’t mince words in promising to address these core issues of conflict.
We all know that you cannot have two sovereigns at any point in time. So, the issue arose: how do you convene a sovereign national conference without precipitating a likely breakdown of law and order that might lead to the disintegration of the country?
The House of Representatives, conscious of the fact that we took an oath to defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, decided to hold a peoples public session, which is taking down these issues to the people in the 360 federal constituencies. So, that was what we did on Saturday, November 10, 2012 and because the different constituencies have different peculiarities, they came up with different recommendations, but essentially, the fact is that the people were given a chance to speak and they have spoken.